Chancellor Angela Merkel and other political leaders have urged Germans to shun the protests which Merkel said were organised by people with hate in their hearts. Pegida whose rise mirrors electoral gains by the rightwing Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany AfD party was quick to claim the Paris attack vindicated its views.
The Islamists against whom Pegida has been warning over the last 12 weeks showed in France Our political leaders want us to believe the opposite is true the group said. Does a tragedy like this first have to happen in Germany? A poll taken in November well before the Paris attack found 57 per cent of nonMuslim Germans feel threatened by Islam. In the Netherlands traumatised by the killing of film producer Theo van Gogh by an Islamist gunman 10 years ago outspoken antiIslam campaigner Geert Wilders is topping public opinion polls.
Within minutes of the Paris events Wilders who has lived under police protection for a decade repeated calls to close Dutch borders to Muslim immigrants and said in a statement: The West is at war and should deIslamise. In the Nordic countries where farright antiimmigrant parties are gaining ground Muslim leaders said their communities faced a wave of violence.
Omar Mustafa chairman of the Islamic Association of Sweden said many mosques had set up night patrols after recent arson and racist attacks on Muslim communities. The forces of hate antidemocratic forces are trying to set the agenda both the extremists on the right and those who are religious. No records kept of investigations over alleged violence by detention services officers Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela has told parliament that no records were ever kept over cases of alleged violence against irregular migrants by detention services officers. Replying to a series of questions raised by backbencher Anthony Agius Decelis Abela confirmed that no records were found of investigations over alleged violence by detention services officers.
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Moreover no records were ever kept of any disciplinary action that may have been taken in the past. The lack of records means that there is no recorded information of the allegations made the investigations that may have been carried out and the outcome of the same investigations. The information requested referred to the period between and According to the minister no records were ever kept of attempted escapes from the detention centres which resulted in disciplinary steps being taken against members of the Armed Forces of Malta or detention services officers.
However Abela did reveal that disciplinary steps were taken against 44 detention service officers between and most commonly for absenteeism leaving the workplace and insubordination. Responding to further parliamentary questions Abela said that irregular immigrant escapes from detention centres were recorded between and the greatest being on 19 September when 40 immigrants escaped at the same time. No records were found on how many of those immigrants were caught.
A further 22 irregular immigrant escapes were attempted in that same time period. Supporters of antiimmigration movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West Pegida hold flags during a demonstration in Dresden Germany yesterday.
Photo: Reuters German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday Islam belongs to Germany in a clear repudiation of antiimmigration protesters gathering in Dresden and other cities in Germany. A day after walking arminarm with French President Francois Hollande at the front of a massive march in Paris to honour the victims of killings by Islamic militants Merkel received the Turkish Prime Minister and urged dialogue among religions.
The conservative Chancellor pointed to comments made by former German president Christian Wulff who said in that Islam was part of Germany triggering a fierce debate. Former president Wulff said Islam belongs to Germany. That is true. I also hold this opinion Merkel said at a news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who also took part with other world leaders in the Paris march on Sunday. The German Chancellor was speaking yesterday some hours before marches by a movement dubbed Pegida or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West were due to begin in several German cities.
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Such demonstrations launched in Dresden have been dwarfed by counterprotests. German Chancellor insists her government is doing everything it can to ensure migrants are being successfully integrated into German society Merkel said her government was doing everything it could to ensure migrants were being successfully integrated into German society regardless of their religion.
Nearly two in three of the four million Muslims in Germany are of Turkish origin. Roughly half are German citizens. But Merkel acknowledged the need for better dialogue between religions praising Muslims for publicly rejecting the use of violence after the Paris killings and calling Turkey an ally in the fight against terrorism. Merkel and other German politicians are due to take part in a solemn vigil at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin today. Davutoglu said it was important to fight all forms of Islamophobia in Germany. Speaking later in Berlin Davutoglu said that if Turkey was accepted in future as a European Union member it would send a powerful message of how Muslims and Christians could live together in Europe in peace.
This took place after my meeting with Mr Depetris: but it gives an indication of the sheer scale at which things are developing on the international front. And as the intended target was not just a French magazine but also an underlying principle that lies at the very heart of postEnlightenment Europe: the freedom to express opinions even when these are offensive to others… that includes all people around the world who cherish human rights.
Yet it bears mentioning that France and indeed all of Europe in was a far more homogenous society than it is today. The changing demographics since the days of the Enlightenment also imply that France has meanwhile assimilated people from different cultures where such concepts are perhaps alien or mistrusted. So it is my unpleasant duty to open fire with an uncomfortable question. Does it indicate in brief that the main aims of the revolution may have failed?
On the contrary I think the reaction and expression of solidarity in Europe and around the world is the living image of this belief in such values as freedom of speech and expression. And these were also among the aims of the revolution.
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I would say it signifies the success of such ideas since the 18th century. As you mentioned these values are very intimately linked with the emergence of the French Republic… it goes back to Voltaire who said he would die for your right to speak even if he disagrees with what you say. It is one of our core values as French President Francois Hollande reaffirmed yesterday. And we will keep on fighting for it. It was one of the slogans… we will keep saying what we think we will defend our freedom of speech and of the press. These are the same values that were epitomised by these cartoonists who were killed.
In this respect at least the attempt to stifle freedom of speech not only failed but also backfired. Depetris tells me that the printrun of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo will run into a million copies: far more than its usual circulation. It is very encouraging also to see all these spontaneous gatherings in France but also around the world outside the French embassies… even here in Malta.
What this suggests is that we are all in the same boat. Our values were attacked but we will defend them. I would like to thank again the Maltese government for its strong message of solidarity.
At the same time there is an uncomfortable reality underpinning all that has occurred. We must acknowledge that random acts of terrorism are not the only thing to worry about now.
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There are indications of a spread of violence and even by Friday there had already been retaliatory attacks aimed at Muslim targets. There are also political movements throughout Europe that will no doubt exploit the fear and outrage provoked by this attack to foster a culture of hatred and intolerance. The French President was very clear on this issue: we are and we should remain united one people. Among us of course we are different. Different religions different provenance different social levels.
But we are all French citizens. We should all live together under Republican rules. It is important to reaffirm that the values of the Republic of France as a nation and a democracy is to respect any kind of religion any kind of free way of thinking and that people are supposed to live together under these common rules.
Depetris also reasons that the antiMuslim sentiment while expressed by many loud voices is not necessarily as widespread as it is sometimes portrayed. I was pleased to note that it was not just politicians but also French citizens interviewed in the streets who were in favour of reaffirming this unity. They were very committed to avoid any kind of racist comments or hate speech against Muslims. Because these extremists are ultimately a threat for the Muslim community in France. There are an estimated 56 million Muslims living in France today and by all accounts the vast majority are either indifferent or opposed to the sort of extremist violence we saw on Wednesday.
It has in fact been argued that the purpose behind the attack on Charlie Hebdo was specifically to change all this: to provoke retaliation against moderate Muslims in the hope of precipitating more violence and facilitating the recruitment of more volunteers. Nor is it just Islamist terror cells who stand to benefit: in times of open racial hostility the radical right also has a field day when it comes to recruiting and convincing. Does the government of France expect a dramatic escalation of violence… such as for instance when the race riots of a Parisian suburb spread throughout the country and precipitated a state of emergency?
We should certainly be aware of this danger and avoid such retaliations. That is why it is really important that speeches or public comments by the authorities impart the same message. I think it will be the case. This Sunday there will be a big demonstration in Paris and in major cities across the world which will be attended by all political parties committed to defend the Republican values. At the same time part of the consequence of a terror attack like this is that fears normally associated with extreme factions may be given far wider credence.
One such fear concerns the fact that European demographics suggest Islam is a fastgrowing religion in Europe. This may also be in part due to a falling birthrate in most European countries; either way the argument goes — and I must stress that it is made by others — that in time Europe will be forced to cede more and more of its principles as immigrant communities make more demands. Are Europeans justified in worrying that the values we cherish so much may be threatened by the longterm implications of demographics change?
France has one of the highest birthrates in Europe… Well the country does have a certain reputation to defend… Perhaps he replies with a laugh. But when we look at the birthrate the statistics show that migrants have higher birthrates when they arrive but by the next generation it drops to the same level as the national average. Things can change and the migration flows are not the same as 20 years before or 30 years before. Most migrants to France used to come from Italy and Portugal.
Immigration to us is an also an added value. But we may have difficulties thinking this way in the light of the economic crisis… Meanwhile speaking of efforts to ignite intercultural hostilities in France: it must be pointed out that there may also be grievances beyond the immediate goals of terrorism. Racial tension has often been felt in France before as the aforementioned riots confirm. More recently the ban of the Burqa likewise sparked a controversy over minority rights.
Like it or not this also points towards a subtext of discontent underpinning race relations in France and no doubt all over the rest of Europe too.
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Regardless of Islam there seems to be many within the Muslim community who feel they are a downtrodden or sidelined minority. Could it be then that the emergence of radical Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS is the tip of the iceberg of a much deeper malaise? I hope not. You mentioned the burqa issue: but it was only an extreme minority of Muslims who were concerned with this law.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims is perfectly integrated in the French community. These few exist; but they are first of all criminals not Muslims. They are criminals and they try to invoke some kind of ideological background to justify their acts; but we cannot confuse the Muslim community with the behaviour of such criminals.